Arizona is home to many incredible landscapes and historic areas, so it’s always a difficult task to focus on just a handful of locations around the state for any article. However, if we were to think of places important to Arizona history or simply iconic, we can definitely narrow that list. Here’s a look at 15 places we think every Arizonan should visit at least once.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Antelope Canyon
This gorgeous slot canyon is one of a kind and entices thousands of visitors from around the world to see this beauty in person. Every visit here is unique; the light is constantly changing, highlighting different segments of the canyon every minute of the day.
2. Arizona State Capitol
Located in central Phoenix, this is where you expect to find members of the state government milling about. The capitol building is actually now home to the State Capitol Museum, which provides details about the state’s history.
3. Grand Canyon
What kind of list would this be if we left out this natural wonder? This massive canyon is 277 miles long, home to hundreds of diverse plants and animals, a sacred site to many regional tribes, and one of the oldest national parks in the country.
In fact, it was a visit to the park in 1903 that left a grand impression on President Theodore Roosevelt and helped push federal protection of the area for posterity. He wrote, "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is."
4. Hoover Dam
Considered one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels, Hoover Dam is both enormous and beautiful. The arch-gravity dam is made of concrete with some impressive design that combines Art Deco and indigenous art.
5. Hubbell Trading Post
One of the oldest trading posts in the state and the oldest on the Navajo Nation, Hubbell Trading Post was established in 1876 and served as an important location for the intersection of cultures following the Navajo Wars (which ended in the 1860s). Here, you’ll find an incredible historic spot with a still-functioning trading post, visitor center, and the original homestead.
6. Kartchner Caverns State Park
Want to see what Arizona looks like underground? This cavern system in southern Arizona is one of the best examples you will find. You’ll find a little more than two miles of passages here that show off plenty of cavern rock formations, rooms, and the favorite roosting spots for local bats.
7. Lowell Observatory
If you ever memorized that mnemonic phrase "my very educated mother just served us nine pizzas," then you probably remember a time when Pluto was a planet. This is the place where the now dwarf-planet was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. You’ll always be a planet to us, Pluto!
8. Mission San Xavier del Bac
The White Dove of the Desert is a striking site standing against a bright blue sky and desert landscape. The building dates to 1797 (although the mission was founded in 1692 by Father Kino, an important figure in Arizona history) and is an impressive example of the architecture of the period.
9. Mogollon Rim
This is a bit of a broad statement but the Mogollon Rim is home to some fantastic landscapes that are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and an inspiration for writers. Time spent on the Rim will help you escape into nature with all the pines, creeks, and wildlife that live here.
10. Monument Valley
If you’ve watched any Western film, chances are you’ve spotted this iconic landscape once or twice. Monument Valley is an absolute beauty in person and it’s worth taking the time to explore through hiking and guided tours.
11. Petrified Forest National Park
A Route 66 staple and a perfect example of just how diverse Arizona’s landscape can be within a few short miles, Petrified Forest is one spot you don’t want to miss. You’ll find huge numbers of petrified wood here that glisten under the desert sun and some amazing land features, most notably the Painted Desert.
We added this city to the list because it once was the capitol of Arizona Territory and this place is filled with history and beauty. Take a walk through the Courthouse Plaza , Whiskey Row, or the Sharlot Hall Museum for an in-depth look at the state’s history.
13. Pueblo Grande Museum
You’ll find evidence of Arizona’s first residents all around the state but spotting ancient homes isn’t something you’ll see everyday. Located in present-day east Phoenix, Pueblo Grande is the name of the large platform mound and irrigation system of the Hohokam who once called this area home. The museum shows the remains of the buildings that once stood in the area, artifacts, and replica buildings, as well as hosting cultural events.
14. San Francisco Peaks
At the Peaks, you’ll find Arizona’s highest peak (Mount Humphrey), the southern most tundra, plenty of outdoorsy opportunities, sacred sites, and so much more! The San Francisco Peaks make Flagstaff a mountain town and provide an incredible view for miles around. There aren’t many other places quite like the mountain in a desert state like Arizona, so definitely check it out if you haven’t already.
One of the last incredible examples of the frontier boomtown, Tombstone is something of a legend. The town has a notorious, violent history and most people today know it for the famous Earp brothers. Tombstone almost became a ghost town in the early 1900s but, proving it’s the Town Too Tough To Die," it managed to stay alive and acts as a tourist attraction today.
16. West Fork of Oak Creek
This place has to be one of the prettiest areas of the state and you’ll find that many others agree! It’s incredible to visit year round but you’ll find the crowds much larger in spring, summer, and fall when the weather is more agreeable for hiking. If there’s any place that you think will help you reconnect with nature, this has to be near the top of your list.